Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats

j62                            THE GAY GENIUS

race-course but was now the site of a Buddhist temple. From this
temple stretched the mile-long new embankment northward along the
east city wall. They could hear in the distance the roaring torrents of
the Lu Rapids and the Hundred-Yard Rapids, amidst the cackling of
ducks and geese below. The ceremony ended with a grand dinner,
with a full orchestra, for the invited guests.                                    ^

Su Tungpo wrote a piece to commemorate the occasion and had it
inscribed on stone. This tablet had a curious history. Later, when he
was exiled and all tablets containing his handwriting were ordered to
be destroyed, the magistrate of Suchow at that time merely dropped it
into a moat near-by. After about ten years had passed, when the people
had forgotten about the ban and the imperial household itself began
to collect the poet's manuscripts, another magistrate at this place had
the tablet hauled out of the moat again. Secretly at night he had several
thousand copies of rubbings from the inscription made. After this haeij
been done, the magistrate suddenly announced to his colleagues: "Why,
I forgot! The law prohibiting Su's inscription has not yet been sus-
pended and this inscription is still lying here. Let's have it destroyed."
Naturally, the price of the rubbings shot up after the stone was
destroyed, and the magistrate, Miao Chungshien, made a lot of money.

Su Tungpo was now very popular, not only because of his successful
fight against the flood, but also because he had taken a personal interest
in the health and welfare of the prisoners, something which was rarely,
if ever, done by magistrates at the time. He had personally visited
the prisons and for the first time had appointed prison physicians to
attend to the sick. While there was a law punishing magistrates wbe
had flogged prisoners to death', Su pointed out that there was nothing
being done about prisoners who died of disease and bad care. As the
prisoners were no other than the common people, he earned the deep
gratitude of their relatives.

There were many small things that could be easily done if a man
thought about doing them, but only Su Tungpo cared. He saw, for
example, that there were many soldiers who deserted the army and
became bandits, because of a preposterous system practically compelling
corporals to go into debt when they were sent on a distant journey
on official business without fees for travel. He had this corrected, and
lie was able to do this by setting aside only a few hundred dollars eacfi
year. He had forbidden gambling and drinking in the army, and in
his letter to the Emperor was able to point 'out that the local army
there was "the best disciplined of all those in that region, as the court
inspectors have seen".

Su Tungpo's fame as poet had steadily risen, until he was now the
acknowledged first scholar of thq land. After Ouyang Shiu's death the
mantle had passed to him. Scholars came to acknowledge him as